The New York Jets suffered a blow to their defense today, as they were forced to place outside linebacker Antwan Barnes on injured reserve, ending his season. The Jets signed Barnes this offseason to boost their pass rush, but the veteran suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Barnes was brought in to be a situational pass rusher, and he had two sacks in the Jets’ first five games. This is a significant injury to the Jets, because Barnes was their best pass rushing linebacker, which has been a weak point for the defense for several years. The team has re-signed Ricky Sapp to replace him.
Barnes is only 28 years old and he signed a three contract with the Jets, and there is no reason to think he won’t be brought back next year. Unfortunately, he has struggled with injuries in his career, and he faces yet another rehab process. Hopefully he will have a speedy recovery and return to strength for next season.
With this news, Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace will now have to step up as pass rushers. Pace has 2.5 sacks this season, while Coples has yet to record one since returning from a fractured ankle in Week 3. Barnes often came on for one of the two in obvious passing situations, but now it is far more likely that neither will leave the field very often.
Primary backup Garrett McIntyre is a run stopper, so he doesn’t figure to make much of an impact on the pass rush. Sapp looked good at times in the preseason, but he is unproven and the Jets just cut him last week. The Jets could consider bringing back a player they are familiar with, such as Aaron Maybin or Bryan Thomas, but that is highly unlikely.
The Jets moved Coples from defensive end to outside linebacker this offseason, and they expected the 2012 first round pick to become their premier pass rusher. However, Coples was slowed by that fractured ankle, and he is still working his way into the defense. With this injury news, the Jets can’t afford to wait any longer, and Coples needs to make a major impact starting this week.
The Jets have had one of the top defenses in the NFL this season, and they need to make sure that this injury doesn’t weaken that unit. Coples and Pace are now even more important than before, and they must be impact pass rushers for the remainder of the season.